Just because certain prominent neoconservative
acolytes are no longer official members of the Bush administration does not
mean that the movement has lost its institutional sway or its ideological commitment
to war. Writing
on these pages two and a half years ago, I warned that the neoconservative
propensity for conflict is inscribed in the worldview of its agents. Fast forward
to today and we can easily discern that they continue to export their kill-or-be-killed
Hobbesianism, primarily to Muslim countries.
Ultimately, neoconservatism functions as a mediation between individual events
and the target enemy. To be more precise, by way of establishing a presence
in public discourse through the media and other institutions, in politics and
in the foreign policy process of the United States, neoconservatives transform
disparate crisis situations into a clear and immediate threat to the national
security of the United States. As a consequence, an event in West Asia is presented
as more than just a singular occurrence. It is metamorphosed into a giant conspiracy
against the United States and, by implication, against Israel.
Typically, it is alleged that a single, prime mover can be detected, the
enemy par excellence exemplified by Saddam Hussein after his invasion of Kuwait,
and now increasingly by Iran. Consider various neocon statements regarding
the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the summer of 2006. "'No
one should have any lingering doubts about what's going on in the Middle East,"
to Michael Ledeen.
"It’s war, and it now runs from Gaza into Israel, through Lebanon
and thence to Iraq via Syria. There are different instruments, ranging from
Hamas in Gaza to Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon and on to the multifaceted
"insurgency" in Iraq. But there is a common prime mover, and that
is the Iranian mullahcracy, the revolutionary Islamic fascist state that declared
war on us 27 years ago and has yet to be held accountable."
Ledeen organizes the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the complex politics
surrounding it into one whole encapsulated in the term "Middle East."
He then moves on to link the conflict to Iran, the "fascist state"
that is considered to be the "prime mover." A similar logic motivates
Larry Kudlow when he argues,
"All of us in the free world owe Israel an enormous thank-you for defending
freedom, democracy, and security against the Iranian cat's-paw wholly-owned
terrorist subsidiaries Hezbollah and Hamas."
According to him, they are not only "defending their own homeland and
very existence, but they are also defending America's homeland as our front-line
democratic ally in the Middle East." So a conflict that emerged
from the capture of Israeli soldiers by Lebanese Hezbollah and has a complex
historical dynamic is turned into a conflict between Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah
on the one side and the forces of freedom, Israel and the United States, on
the other. By means of this constellation, a whole new agenda opens up. Quite
suddenly Iran is a clear and immediate threat, not only to the United States
but to Western civilization as a whole. Take a look at what is being written
about Lebanon, Iraq, and Gaza at this very moment and you will see that this
sophisticated spin is still with us.
One must agree with Walt and Mearsheimer that there is no such thing as a
neoconservative headquarters, manifesto, conspiracy, or even party. Among the
neocons there are Republicans and Democrats, entertainers such as Glenn Beck
and historians such as Andrew Roberts, Christians, Jews, and Muslims.
Indeed, the evidence suggests that the pervasive concentration of think tanks
and activists – the neoconservative apparatus – transcends the fault lines
of domestic politics in the United States. Ultimately, the term "neoconservatism"
denotes simply the latest manifestation of American imperialism. This imperial
attitude permeates the political culture of the country to its core, which
explains why it is not easily discarded. When Democratic leaders such as Barack
Obama announce that in dealing with Iran "we must never take the military
option off the table," or when Hillary Clinton states that "to those
who believe we should become involved only if it is easy to do, I think we
have to say that America has never and should not ever shy away from the hard
task if it is the right one," they reflect a widespread belief in the
special status of the United States.
This consensus about America's "indispensable" global leadership
role is shared by both neoconservatives and "missionary" liberals
and accounts for Iran's image as an "international pariah" that the
U.S. must "deal with." This image is less the result of Ahmadinejad's
confrontational rhetoric than of an ideological myth-making process in American
culture. It is within this tight-knit cultural habitat that the
invasion of Iraq was made possible and the idea of military intervention against
Iran is cultivated. I hope that I have made it clear that neoconservative
ideology is central to this process, because it pulls together and integrates
into one whole disparate issues, it eschews coexistence, it reduces complexity,
and it continuously works to legitimize its ultimate aim – war!